Paul Saltzman’s “The Inner Light: The Beatles in India”

Paul Saltzman recalls meeting the Beatles in 1968 during an unusual encounter in the Indian city of Rishikesh.

“I spent a week with them, and I literally never thought of the word Beatles,” he recalls, “just these are my new friends.”

Now the Canadian filmmaker, photographer and writer is showing his photographs of the “Fab Four” at The Betsy Hotel, 1440 Ocean Dr. on Miami Beach. The exhibition includes what some consider “some of the best intimate shots” of the band that played together from the 1960s to the 1970s and in some ways shaped modern rock ‘n’ roll. 

Interviews with Saltzman are featured in our sister publication, Inspicio magazine. 

Saltzman spent a summer in 1965 volunteering to help with voter registration in Mississippi. He has been a crusader for moving people beyond their prejudice. 

Saltzman has produced several films on the subject, including “Prom Night” (2008) and “The Last White Knight,” (2012) both featuring famous actor Morgan Freeman. 

Saltzman said he felt inspired to produce “Prom Night” after discovering a high school in Charleston, Mississippi didn’t have an integrated prom. Instead, the town would host two separate proms, one for whites and another for Black students. 

He worked with Freeman, who had previously offered to fund an integrated prom and produced the film, which follows students’ experiences during the process and exposes the racial tension in Charleston. 

The film was screened in 2009 at the White House with an audience of 150 people and has won several awards such as the Target Filmmaker Award for Best Documentary

He met the Beatles at age 23 after moving to India. While there, he received a letter from his girlfriend breaking up with him. The immense heartbreak led him to visit the Maharishi Ashram in Rishikesh, seeking to learn meditation.

Upon arriving there, he was told he could not go inside because the Beatles were there on a meditation retreat. Still, Saltzman decided to wait outside the ashram for the next eight days. 

Finally, he was let inside and, after practicing his first meditation, encountered the Beatles sitting at a table. He approached and calmly asked to join them. 

Before he had a chance to speak, Lennon asked, “So you are American then?” to which he replied, “No, I’m Canadian.” Lennon then turned to the rest of the group and said, “Ah he’s from one of the colonies.”

“They were a very humorous and teasing group,” Saltzman explained. “They were remarkably down to earth, and the week I spent with them, there was no star attitude.”

Saltzman spent several days at the Ashram with the Beatles and took 54 pictures, many of which are on display at the Betsy. They include photos portraying John, Paul, George, Ringo, Mia Farrow, Jane Asher, Donovan, Cynthia Lennon, and others present during the retreat. Most images show the Beatles playing the guitar and talking and laughing. One of the most colorful photographs of the collection shows most attendees sitting with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi— an Indian yoga guru. 

In 2020, Saltzman released the documentary “Meeting The Beatles in India,” which portrays his experience with them. 

For more information visit: Paul Saltzman – “The Inner Light: The Beatles in India” or stop by the Betsy. Admission is free.

Amys Serret is a journalism student at FIU. She is currently a senior and part of the Honors College. Her main interests are writing and potentially going into the organizational communications field.